Gray Wielebinski

“The Red Sun is High, The Blue Low”
solo show, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
Wed 20 September – Sat 23 December 2023

Expanding Wielebinski’s exploration of the boundaries of private and public spaces, with references spanning sci-fi, Cold War legacies and games, The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low transforms the ICA into an investigation of constructed worlds within worlds. In doing so, Wielebinski responds to our neighbours on The Mall: Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park, and the Admiralty Citadel. The exhibition’s title is taken from a 1978 essay by science fiction writer and critic Samuel R. Delany. Delany uses the sentence as an example of the corrective and revisionary process of reading science fiction, in which ‘each new word revises the complex picture we had a moment before.’

In Wielebinski’s installation environment, overlapping worlds feel both familiar and strange. A large electronic basketball scoreboard signals to visitors their unknown role in some mysterious, surely unwinnable, game. The sun appears in multiple and sequential instances across the space, mapping a potential collapse of temporalities. Now a dark, absurdist bunker, the ICA’s smaller reading room stands in contrast to the light-filled gallery visible to those who place their eye on the aperture of a telescoping peephole connecting the two spaces. In its privacy, surveillance and exclusivity, the bunker also speaks the language of illicit spaces where separating oneself leads towards community formation rather than isolation.

Wielebinski’s commission could be viewed as a processing of terminal capitalism and the omnipresence of a collective low-grade anxiety. In the wake of a pandemic that forced the tilling of our social ground, exposing our governing systems and conventions to scrutiny they could not withstand, this exhibition imagines how we might position our individual and public selves anew. And with it comes an unexpected playfulness and optimism, the ineffable condition of living in a time in which apocalyptic precarity feels realistic and maybe also revelatory.

Event programme

Tuesday 26 Sep, 8pm
Book Launch: Gray Wielebinski, The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low
A companion piece to the exhibition edited by Wielebinski, featuring writing by Asa Seresin, Larne Abse Gogarty and Maxi Wallenhorst, alongside archival imagery.

Tuesday 3 Oct – Tuesday 12 Dec
Gray Wielebinski’s Film Club
A series of films picked by Gray, foregrounding the question of paranoia.

Tuesday 10 Oct, 7pm
Discussion group with Eliel Jones
Eliel Jones leads a discursive session extending from the exhibition themes exploring the practice of hosting as a queer, artistic and curatorial method.

Sunday 5 Nov, 2pm
Workshop with bones tan jones
A workshop responding to the exhibition’s central motif, the sun.

Thursday 16 Nov, 6:30pmHeather Love, Underdogs: Social Deviance and Queer Theory
The author leads a reading group on her 2021 book Underdogs: Social Deviance and Queer Theory.

Saturday 9 Dec, 2pm
Choreographic workshop with Maria Metsalu
A workshop of group choreographic instructions to dance together, embody feelings and explore a sense of safety in stillness with one another, with a live score by Oxhy.